Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Ones that Moved Me! (Part - I)

There are cinemas that are made with a lot of sincerity but they somehow do not click. There are films which are completely commercial-driven, and they really work with the masses. And then there are cinemas which are honest without any added gloss, they not only click but remain with you for long. As long as you love yourself. Because they are just an extension of yours. In the last decade till now, there only a few which has pushed the bar of Indian cinema creating new benchmarks for others to follow. Some of the movies were stuck in between when nobody wanted to produce them, but when they got a helping hand, there was no more stopping. Even the audiences were ready to accept the product with open arms.

I look back to the last decade till date, to find some of those films that made a mark in the hearts more than the box office. Some of them managed to get the commercial success as well. This list would again be subjective as I have skipped few movies as have not seen them yet. Also, this list depicts my own set of movies and does not necessarily present everybody’s taste.


When a critic and writer debuts, his own fraternity will be eagerly waiting to either shower praise or rip everything apart. And Khaleed Mohammed delivered something that would atleast please the critics. It did, to some extent it pleased the audiences too but majorly it didn’t work. Obviously so, technically pretty strong a movie, well supported by spirited performances of Hrithik and Karishma (lone movie where I believed she tried to overact the least). Loved the under-current and the intent. With many flaws in between, the movie was meant beyond the obvious. End of it ‘loved’ Mrs. Bachchan as usual.


Dil Chahta Hai
Who will expect a guy in his late 20s, will deliver a movie that will not become a cult but also create so many marks itself. It revived the career of Saif Ali Khan, brought Akshaye Khanna back into limelight and Aamir went a step higher in his list of great movies. Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy gave the best possible music, quite to the liking of youth. The story was about 3 friends and the journey of their life which has been showcased without much of those clich├ęd drama. The entire nation’s youth loved the movie and it was huge success. Farhan Akhtar arrived not only with a bang but hiked the bar for other directors.

Rehna Hai Tere Dil Main
How many times have you seen love stories on celluloid that have left a mark within you, RHTDM for sure made a mark after it was a wash out from the theaters for lack of promotion. The movie was a craze amongst the all classes/masses with some innocent but gripping acting by Madhavan and well supported by Diya Mirza. Both debuted in Hindi cinema with another debutante director. Madhavan made Saif look miniscule by his acting  prowess. The screenplay looked pretty well-knitted making the audience stay glued to each of the scene. The story had nothing to surprise you, but had enough moments to make you love it again and again.


The Legend of Bhagat Singh
Some infinite number of movies released during this phase on Mr. Bhagat Singh, making his popularity touch new heights. But sitting somewhere in the heaven, Mr. Singh must have felt pretty bad seeing almost all of them interpreting him so badly and terribly overacting by the characters. The one that stood out was directed by Rajkumar Santoshi and Ajay Devgan in the lead. Two true professionals who gave their best to recreate the history in its purest form. Non-period-movie-lovers like me too loved it. A R Rahman’s music and background score was upto the mark and the story-telling was notch higher than the movies based on the same content. It makes you think & question few things about the history.


Teen Deewarein
By now, Nagesh Kukunoor was well-known as a hatke director who always pushed the contemporary film-making. He could possibly do it because he never aimed at the box-office. With this movie, he again didn’t enjoy the claps of the masses but he ensured he establishes himself firmly amongst those who really understand story-telling and film-making. Three stories told by three different prisoners which actually are inter-related. Excellent editing and crisp background score made this slow-paced flick a decent watch. All the three leads (which include Nagesh himself) were pretty meticulous.

Prakash Jha always made movies which were based on an “India” we never want to see on a 70mm screen. Because when we enter that dark room for 3 hours, we want to go on a dreamy ride which only shows us good things, things we always aspire to be. He always stuck to his style of movies that will be based on some or other issues we face in our daily lives. With this movie, he reached almost the entire country as it went on to become one of those films which was appreciated by the classes and masses hands down. Ajay Devgan as the lead actor probably gave one the most important performances in the Indian Film Industry. This act of his will be remembered for long time. No such songs (apart from a sleazy item number by then an unknown lady who is now a wife of a respectable family), no colorful locales and good-looking stars, the movie was power-packed by so many good actors that you will be leave the theatre asking for more. The nexus between mafias, politicians and the helplessness of the police is perfectly blended with emotions and anger is what makes this movie worth remembering.


Quite like Gangajal, this movie again depicts the root of corruption inside the police department. But set in a different society with different issues. Studded with many stars and successful songs the movie had a buzz before it entered the theatres. But Rajkumar Santoshi ensured that his screenplay won’t loosen up and he kept the grip on the audience with some great scenes defending the police department. Mr. Bachchan is outstandingly awesome in his role as an ACP (if I can remember). He was the lone star who shined above all and his scenes were powerful enough to question the police department and appreciate it at the same time. Actors like Ajay Devgan were wasted but the movie garnered good response. Slightly plagiarized in its presentation, the movie was a good watch for a cinema-goer.

When a Director debuts with a movie like Dil Chahta Hai, then the expectation would be sky-high for his next. He came back and he was even a notch higher. Lakshya was such a matured product that it presented the Indian Army and the battles they fought in a different color altogether. No melodrama, no exaggerations and no masala. It was a great insight into the way a normal soldier thinks and reacts to different situations, be it in his personal life or professional battles. Hrithik stood up to the task and didn’t let Farhan down in his ambition to make a movie that had all the risk of failing at the box office. It did fail but I’ll always remember the return of a maestro to script-writing, the great Javed Akhtar. The way human relationships has been shown is outstanding, be it between two-lovers, friends or a father and son.

Vishal Bhardwaj is a man full of content, who always belived in the works of Gulzar sa’ab, has decided to make a movie on the adaptation of the Shakespearan novel “Macbeth”. With cast like Pankaj Kapur, Tabu, Irfan Khan and an ensemble that boasts powerhouse actors, the movie is a must-watch. Even for those who knew the theme of Macbeth, still loved it due to the intense acting by the actors and great narrative by Vishal. Unlike Chetan Bhagat’s moronic masala stories turned into even horrible movies, this is a gem as Vishal kept so many moments that will stay with you for long.

Rituparno Ghosh has made some good movies, but I have seen this particular movie where I went back to the days of watching some short-films in Doordarshan shot in a single room with some countable actors. Ajay Devgan and a de-glamed Aishwarya Rai will keep you hooked till the end with this poignant love story. A story told, enacted and presented in the simplest way possible is what clicks to me. But this movie never had the mass appeal nor was intended for them. For a change, Aishwarya was looking more comfortable in this kind of set-up than Ajay.

After a thunderous response to the Oscar-nominated Lagaan, Ashutosh Gowariker came with a movie where he worked with a star unlike the actor in Lagaan. But what followed is one memorable movie which will possibly remain one of best work of Shahrukh Khan. Failed in the box office for ‘missing the point’, technically the movie was almost there. Based on “braindrain” and how a man’s journey brings him back home, Ashutosh handled the subject pretty well with few flaws here and there. But it will remain as a movie which reminds me of my hometown each time I see it and compels me to go back.

Mani Ratnam shot this movie both in Tamil and Hindi and both versions fared very well in the box-office. Atleast the Hindi re-launched the career of Abhishek Bachchan. The editing and the screenplay were somewhat similar to Teen Deewarein, but Yuva was technically more sound and far better presented. Mani did not leave any stones unturned in terms of extracting the best performances from all his leads. The movie will always be remembered for its rawness, magic of the city Kolkata, natural performances (apart from Mr. Oberoi) and some breathtaking sequences.


Black Friday
Delayed by some infinite light years, Anuraag Kashyap’s Black Friday finally saw the daylight in 2005. But by now neither the director, producers nor any actor in it were expecting it to be a hit in the cinemas across. They wanted the world to see it thorough any medium. When I saw it, I realized for how many years some great actors efforts were lying in the dust thanks to our great censor board. There were atleast 10/12 actors who today are still trying to make a mark for them due to the delay of this movie. Kay Kay Menon, Pawan Malhotra to name just a few. It’s the first docu-film which I really loved due to the amount of in-depth analysis gone into the making of it and great acting. It was a great depiction of the Mumbai blasts without any commercial value added to it.

Nagesh Kukunoor finally thought of going commercial and he made Iqbal with Mukta Arts (Subash Ghai). A simple story of a guy who can neither speak nor listen and his wish to play Cricket for the National Team. Shreyas Talpade did a great job ably supported by Mr. Nasseruddin Shah. It is one of those kind of cinemas where you know what’s going to happen but still love to watch every moment of it. The director is the clear winner here. (Incidentally, this was Nagesh’s last success venture in commercial cinema; he is still struggling to make a good movie since)

Sometimes I feel bad for immensely talented people who never get the right support to showcase what they can deliver. Mahesh Manjrekar is one such man, each time he is given freedom, he comes up with something so spectacular that it leaves you shocked (Vaastav, Astitva, City of Gold). An excellent story-teller, he presents stories taken out of the small instances that happen in our daily lives. A small, simple and sweet story of a family whose only son (John Abraham) works abroad, comes home on a trip and gets killed in an unexpected accident by a son of influential person. Then starts one great journey by his parents Amitabh Bachchan and Sharmila Tagore to get justice for him. There are certain moments in the movie which will not only leave you choked but will make you literally disturbed. That’s the power Amitabh/Mahesh can create on the celluloid. 

(2006 - 2011 to follow in Part - II)

Monday, September 5, 2011

My Days with NAB

When you are in your early teens, you feel like doing wonders in your life. All larger-than-life dreams floating around. A late teenager adds and subtracts some colours in those dreams. Then comes the phase of early twenties where you feel that it’s time to get serious about life. Actually all these phases were more or less hallucinations till you close in and cross 25. Then you have the fire to do something worth, instead of the regular dreams that everyone has. I have more or less gone through all these phases and ended up leaving my home and coming to a distant place to pursue my management studies, which in turn made me understand that life is also about a lot of such dreams which actually makes some sense.

NAB, Worli, Mumbai
NI started my first job with a lot of pre-conceived notions that I had with me during my MBA. It all started fading with each passing day and I started understanding that it is pretty easy to seat in an air-conditioned room and discuss with all the intellects. But it becomes pretty difficult to actually go out and do the field work. When I joined my second job, all I wanted was to explore new aspects of HR. Then came a day when my super boss threw this idea of how to enable ‘blind people and make them industry ready’ to me and how can we help them. He neither gave me a proper plan of action nor any budget. So I had to start with a hardcore ground work where I initiated gathering details of all those places where there is a structured way of blind people being managed. Then I realized that in such high-rate of blindness in our country, we have hardly any organization that maintains a good standard of education for them and make them employable. With such mixed responses, I found one place. A place which we zeroed in on when we were about to give up. It was National Association for the Blind. Based in between some posh apartments of Worli, sea-facing, badly maintained but huge in size.
This is where they get computer basics training at NAB

When I thought that going there, understanding them and shortlisting the final is the toughest task, I realized my job is just half done. When the nine of them came on board, I knew what was lying ahead of me. I had number of sessions with the internal trainers on how to go about the training process. The normal module of training is designed with a 3 month class-room work, but we decided to extend it to 5 months and keep 1 extra month in hand so as to ensure the students will be fully equipped with the required technical knowledge and will be at par with any normal person at work. And the day has come, the first day, first show. It was not as chaotic as I thought, but it surely kept me engaged whole day. We had sketched each minute details of their day to day requirements such as their seating arrangements keeping in mind that they will require the least time to reach to the refreshment rooms! We have trained them how to reach our office from the railways station through the shortest way possible, though they were quite well-versed in travelling in local trains. I mean they need to be followed on how to travel, they are so damn sharp and put effort where it actually is required unlike so many of us who are always on rampage.

We, the humans, are going away from celebrating whatever we have in the quest of having new things every moment. But I learned from them how to live every moment and be happy about whatever comes my way. You will be surprised with the kind of wit they possess and their sense of humor. I never under-estimated them, but never expected that they will come up with some awesome one liners on demand! They also are sensible to people around them, they do emote but not artificially like most of us. For they already have gone through phases where they had accepted a curse being forced on them. You give them an occasion, you give them the smallest possible reason, and they will celebrate it as if it’s their own joy. They do fall in love, they do get rejected and they do have a life with all those events just like any of us.

The primary issue with all of us is that we do not value what we have today. We realize the value of it once we lose it. For these outstandingly dedicated people, life is one beautiful thing out of which they have already lost something, so they do not want to miss the rest of it. They love, they live and they bring life back into dead souls like us who just are running after some pre-defined goals set for everyday life.

These bunch of extraordinarily talented people has made me feel one thing which I may never be able to experience again, it’s that surreal feeling which is literally an out of the world experience. It makes me feel that I am in so much better condition and still not as happy as them, still not as lively as them and still not as dedicated as them.

(There’s so much more I can add in here, I can go on, but may be I can never express what I went through in those six months of the project. It was an assignment carried out by me with great support of by the management of my previous organization. I will always be indebted to Ms. Heartina Mathews (from NAB) & Mr. Shantanu Lajmi (COO – VPT) for their support throughout.)